This is how the spread of metastases takes place: researched the course of colon cancer

Colon cancer: Molecules influence the spread of metastases in colon cancer
Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in Germany. The chances of recovery depend heavily on how early the cancer is discovered and whether it has already spread. Researchers from Austria have now found that certain molecules play a key role in the spread of metastases in colon cancer.

Better treatment options through early diagnosis
According to health experts, colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death for men after prostate and lung cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death for women after breast cancer in Germany. Around 26,000 people die of it every year in Germany. The chances of recovery depend heavily on how early the cancer is discovered. And also whether he has already spread. According to the latest findings, certain molecules play a major role in the spread of metastases in colon cancer (colon carcinoma).

Better understanding of the disease
Colon cancer is also one of the most common cancers in Austria. At the Medical University of Graz, intensive research is being carried out into the molecular mechanisms underlying this disease.

As the university reports on its website, current research results show that so-called microRNAs - small, non-coding RNA molecules that have a major influence on gene expression - play a major role in the spread of metastases in colon cancer.

The identification of the underlying molecular mechanisms should lead to a better understanding of the disease and pave the way for the development of new therapeutic approaches.

The research results of the Graz experts were recently published in the renowned journals "Clinical Cancer Research" and "Genome Biology".

Cancer cells need protein molecules
"Biochemical processes run continuously in all body cells and thus also in tumor cells, which are largely controlled by protein molecules (proteins)," explains Assoz.-Prof. PD Mag. Dr. Martin Pichler, head of the research unit "Non-coding RNAs and Genome Editing in Cancer", Med Uni Graz.

Cancer cells need these protein molecules to be able to penetrate healthy tissue, spread and enter the blood vessel system, as well as being able to spread it to other organs. Whether and how many such proteins are formed is a subtly regulated and complexly controlled balance.

“One level of this regulation runs via microRNAs, which can inhibit the production of the protein substances. This mechanism in cancer cells was first described by Prof. George A Calin in 2002. The internationally renowned expert is currently a guest professor at the Med Uni Graz in research and teaching, ”said Pichler.

Anomalies of molecules examined
Together with George Calin and scientists from his own research group, oncologist and molecular biologist Pichler is investigating the abnormalities of these “non-coding RNAs” in colon cancer.

"Previously, it was assumed that only the sections defined for protein-coding (" coding ") genes have meaning in the human genome, and the much larger sections in between are irrelevant - some authors even called them" junk DNA "- knowledge of those “non-coding” parts has multiplied, ”says Pichler.

And further: "Pharmacological and biomarker studies indicate the great potential for the use of these microRNAs, not only for cancerous diseases, but also for infectious diseases or metabolic diseases."

Results can be used for possible therapeutic approaches
In several recent scientific studies, the researchers discovered some of these microRNAs and other non-coding RNAs that regulate the spread of colon cancer cells.

For example, the scientists describe the role of the miR-196b-5p microRNA as a possible biomarker for predicting the metastasis of colon cancer. Two independent cohorts with a total of around 300 patients show that low miR-196b-5p expression is significantly associated with metastasis formation.

Experts have discovered that miR-196b-5p has a direct impact on cancer cell migration and metastasis, with the decreased presence of miR-196b-5p leading to increased metastasis, whereas overexpression has the opposite effect and metastasis inhibited.

"If you could start here and influence the function of these regulators, the results of our studies could potentially be used for possible therapeutic approaches," said the first author of one of the studies Dr. Verena Stiegelbauer from the Med Uni Graz. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Risk Factors and Screening Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer (January 2022).